Stem-cell lab opens at UC Davis

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May 19, 2009
By dvm360.com staff
Davis, Calif. -- This week the University of California-Davis School of Veterinary Medicine opened its new stem-cell therapy Regenerative Medicine Laboratory at the William R. Pritchard Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital.

The laboratory provides a state-of-the art facility for processing, culturing and storing stem cells for use in horses. The lab will also provide stem-cell collection kits to veterinarians in private practices.

Processed stem cells can then be returned to the practitioner for therapeutic uses on their patients. Referral to the teaching hospital is also an option, the university reports.

The cost for processing and expansion of one bone-marrow sample will be about $1,800. Each sample will be expanded into four therapeutic stem-cell doses. One dose will be returned to the submitting veterinarian, while the other three will be stored for future use. The fee for stem-cell injections at the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital will vary according to the number and frequency of doses administered. For most patients, the fee will be about $1,500.

In recent years, scientists have made significant advances in using stem cells to treat horses suffering from diseases including colic and neuromuscular degeneration, as well as burns and other injuries.

"The marvelous thing about stem-cell therapy is that it holds the promise of a cure," says Dr. Sean Owens, a veterinary professor and director of the new Regenerative Medicine Laboratory. "We can use pharmacological medicine to alleviate the pain associated with orthopedic injuries in horses, but only with biological medicine such as stem-cell therapy can we actually repair the damage that has already been done."

The new regenerative medicine program does not use embryonic stem cells, but rather stem cells that have been collected from the horse's own blood or bone marrow.

"The stem cell, with its ability to recreate, repair or revitalize damaged organs or tissues, is rapidly changing all of medicine," says Dr. Gregory Ferraro, a veterinary professor and director of UC Davis' Center for Equine Health. "The application of stem-cell science to treating horses is advancing so quickly that within three to five years, the treatments that are currently being provided for orthopedic repair in athletic horses will seem crude in hindsight."

The laboratory at UC Davis is one of just four university-based veterinary stem-cell labs in the nation, providing services to clients and referring veterinarians.